Forty years ago, Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman & CEO of Quality Dining Inc., had a vision to provide Catholic school children with opportunities for greater success. In 1982, Fitzpatrick founded the You Can Lend a Hand (YCLAH) program, which allowed students to sell coupon books to donors and bring profitable fundraising gains to Catholic schools. Although it started small, this initiative has come to have a profound impact on many students across the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese.
The program has always been about students making an effort to sell coupon books that have many different types of coupons in them. From sandwiches at Burger King to incentives for South Bend Cubs games, the purchasing of the books provided many different coupons for partners of Quality Dining. The coupon book was last sold in 2020, due to the immediate changes that were needed because of the pandemic. In 2021, YCLAH was forced to change the program to just selling one coupon, valid only at the Quality Dining restaurants. YCLAH also provided an online presence, where the coupons could be purchased or a flat donation could be made, and the purchaser would designate their school of choice. This eliminated the door-to-door approach of the past and patrons were able to designate which school they would like their donation to go. That year, the program raised $61,538 and the money was given back to the local Catholic schools.
Kelli Stopczynski, director of marketing for Quality Dining, stated that there has never been any demands or requirements on how the money could be spent by the schools. “This was an opportunity to give schools that extra and let them decide how they wanted to spend the money fundraised.” With that being said, many Catholic schools have chosen to utilize these funds in creative ways. Huntington Catholic, St. Michael in Plymouth, and Fort Wayne schools St. Joseph and Queen of Angels have all found different uses for these funds.
Huntington Catholic School principal Derek Boone stated that the money earned through the YCLAH program has been able to be infused into the school budget to assist with budgetary needs. Boone stated that this money has been very beneficial, especially when trying to ensure that different items can be purchased that may not have had a good funding source.
Amy Weidner, Principal at St. Michael in Plymouth, stated that: “This money has been very beneficial in our ability to make technology purchases.” When the pandemic hit, schools were forced to pivot, and technology became a major concern. Lessons went from paper-and-pencil to digital, and many schools, especially in 2021, had to plan for some students to attend virtually. Having the opportunity to use the money raised through the coupon program, St. Michael was able to make the necessary technology purchases.
When asked about how they promote coupon sales, Weidner stated, “The coupons sell themselves; stakeholders receive information through the school newsletter and students are usually asked to sell five coupons. That amount is usually surpassed, and many times St. Michael is requesting additional coupons.” Weidner went on to state that she is hoping to utilize some of this year’s proceeds to assist in an all-school convocation during Catholic Schools Week next year.
Cristy Jordán, principal of St. Joseph School said, “We like to use the YCLAH funds towards anything that will help strengthen our St. Joseph community.” In the past, Jordán has used the funds to purchase updated drinking fountains or to assist in making equipment purchases for her CYO athletics teams. St. Joseph, as well as many other Catholic schools, relies heavily on fundraising to help get items that assist with the growth of their school.
Queen of Angels School has put their funds to good use by providing their “specials” teachers with supplies that they may not have had funds in the budget for, including supplies for art, music and Spanish, as well as gym equipment and some fun rewards. Christy Etter, the school administrative assistant, stated that: “The funds that we received from YCLAH in 2021 were used to celebrate a crazy and chaotic year of quarantining and virtual learning. Staff and students were treated with root beer floats from Antiqology in Huntington, as well as Kona Ice treats.”
The staff at Queen of Angels has found many unique ways to encourage their students to raise money with the coupons. In 2019, the top five selling students were able to throw “pies” in the face of teachers who volunteered. The number one seller was able to assist in shaving principal Dennis Wiegmann’s head. In 2020 and 2021, the pandemic halted any opportunities for this type of reward. Queen of Angels is currently working on ways to provide those incentives again, with the changing format of selling coupons.
Schools throughout the diocese have found many different ways to utilize these funds. These schools have found ways that fit their needs in their school environment.
This year, Quality Dining continued with the same program that they presented in 2021. The biggest difference is that the schools are able to sell coupons again. Students have been given individual coupons that are single-use and are purchased for a $1 donation. This coupon is honored at Quality Dining restaurants, including Burger King, Papa Vino’s and Chili’s. Each restaurant offers a different opportunity. For instance, at Burger King, the coupon can be used for a Free Croissan’wich or Original Chicken Sandwich; Chili’s offers free chips and salsa; Papa Vino’s offers a free bruschetta appetizer. These coupons will be available for purchase through the month of February. All coupons expire on September 30, 2022.
Online donations will also remain a part of this year’s fundraising program, which allows family members, alumni and others who might live outside the geographic area to help support the work of Catholic schools within the diocese. Without this assistance, Catholic schools often have to “make do” with outdated technology or put on hold any improvements that the schools cannot regularly afford to make. The program remains true to its name – lending a hand to educate children in a safe, well-equipped and up-to-date Catholic environments. To buy YCLAH coupons or make a donation online, go to youcanlendahand.com.
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